Local News 3-10 December 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including East Garston’s news, Lambourn’s solution, Hungerford’s video, Inkpen’s rowers, Thatcham’s lights, Compton’s light, Newbury’s raffle, Marlborough’s pavements, Beenham’s advent, Cold Ash’s gradients, Chaddleworth’s bear, Shefford Woodland’s quiz, Stratfield Mortimer’s car park, Hamstead Marshall’s rickety gate, Wantage’s hospital, Chieveley’s meeting, Swindon’s collections, hospitality, vaccines, the Christmas truce, going to the wire again, nine missing letters, version 2.0, £91m, 30-foot waves, a 70th-minute equaliser, CIL exemptions, a yellow sheep, a bass prodigy, marvellous commentators, saying sorry, Live Aid, Piggy Woods, dredging, takeaways and Cornwall.

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.

Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• So here we are, re-booted in our new operating system of Tiers 2.0. There was hope of a last-minute upgrade to make it more user-friendly but Tiers 2.1 has yet to appear. The system is riddled with inconsistencies but, in fairness so would anything else apart from our all being able to do what we liked or our all being locked in solitary confinement for a month, perhaps in prisons converted from empty office blocks and operated by Serco. The measures could have been more severe than 2.0 currently requires. The latest Private Eye has, in the excellent MD column on pp8-9 a summary (‘Aussie Rules’) of how the Australian government and states have responded. ‘Ruthless’ hardly comes close. Yet it appears to have worked. 

• The huge hole in Tiers 2.0 seems to be the Christmas amnesty, which Covid will not respect. No PM, particularly not this one, wants to go down as the grinch who cancelled Christmas. I suspect the restrictions were eased simply because they would have been all but enforceable. Christmas may have come at the price of another month of lockdown. Let’s see what the figures show in early to mid January. I hope I’m wrong but a rise in cases after twelfth night is possible.

• I do have the deepest sympathy for the hospitality industry. We have several excellent pubs in the area. Under the current rules, the only people I can have a meal with in any of them are my wife Penny and my youngest son Toby. I love them both to bits but I’ve eaten meals with them and no one else, with a few exceptions, pretty much since March. I’m sure they’ll understand (and probably feel the same way) when I say I’d prefer to go out and split a bottle of wine with almost anyone else. I can’t.

The pubs had all geared up for the expectation that I would be able to because the rule of six would still apply. Now all their expensively-made partitions are the wrong size. Who needs a table of six at the moment? The industry jumped through all the hoops that was asked of it. I hope that the government will recognise that now the rules have changed and provide compensation. “We’ve lost half our Christmas bookings since being placed in tier 2,” said Duncan Jones, the chef/owner of The Five Bells in Wickham. “Our first night was quiet and though the weekend is looking busier (we have our Christmas market on Saturday 5 December) the run-up to Christmas isn’t looking great at the moment.”

If we want them still to be this time next year, then do your best to support the services like takeaways each might offer – see this separate post. You’ll still be eating with the same old people but at least you won’t have to do the cooking, or quite so much washing up. There is plentiful local evidence that when a pub – or a shop – closes form more than a few months the chances of resuscitating it are fairly low. They have never needed your support more than now – even it involves your having a meal with your partner, look at it as an investment in the pub’s success for better times to come. Which they will.

• The big news is obviously the vaccines (note the plural), with most opinions currently supporting the views of this article I wrote, with the help of Professor Jon Crowcroft, on 9 November that these do not seem to have had corners cut in their testing. This won’t do anything to assuage the concerns of the vaccine deniers, for whom the issue seems to be more one of libertarian principle or conspiracy acceptance than scientific objection. This article suggests that anything above 80% of a population being vaccinated will produce a form of herd immunity so perhaps we don’t have to worry about them too much, though we do need to worry about their disinformation. The US’s Covid supremo Dr Fauci – a person who, more than most, has been on the wrong end of disinformation tirades, including from his own President – today retracted and apologised for his earlier suggestion that the UK had ‘rushed’ the vaccine.  This kind of comment, from government minister Gavin Williamson, does nothing to help the collective effort either. 

There is always an element of risk with any treatment, but there seems to be about as little evidence for safety-cutting as there was for election fraud in the recent US election. One possible, and more realistic, concern is that this is possibly the first time there has been more than one vaccine for the same disease, which makes the issue of monitoring the results all the more important. The deniers may see this as further evidence of a deep-state plot if they choose. Many of them are only alive because their parents had them vaccinated. 

• The highlight of the government’s press briefing on 2 Dec was the moment when the PM took issue with professor Johnathan Van Tam’s statement that things such as face coverings may be needed for some time to come. “We want to get back to normal,” the PM interjected. Prof JVT, displaying with great skill a tried-and-tested political phrase, said that he welcomed the interruption as “it gives me a chance to clarify what I mean.” (He later claimed that the vaccine was like “scoring an equaliser in the 70th minute,” a precise image which gives a no doubt carefully considered clue as to where he thinks we are in the game. He didn’t say whether the match was a league or a cup one: if the latter, there’s the spectre of extra-time to think about.) There’s little doubt that face coverings, hand washing and keeping a respectful distance from others indoors has reduced the spread of numerous other diseases including flu. As for the PM’s desire that we need to get back to normal, if Covid is going to be around for ever – and why shouldn’t it be? – then the new normal may be more like JVT suggested than how BoJo might have us believe.

• And of course, Brexit is still lumbering and grumbling on, with reports of deadlines, matters going to the wire, red lines and the like. Private Eye points out that the Daily Express has been confidently predicting an imminent ‘critical’ period roughly every three weeks since June (and probably longer). What this is extraordinary newspaper is going to write about once we finally leave the EU is anyone’s guess. Like most people, I’m long past understanding what it’s all about and what the consequences will or might be. Let’s hope it’s all worth it (though I doubt it).

• The subject of correctly applying for an exemption from a Community Infrastructure Levy obligation is almost certainly something you will not have worried about before. Indeed, I can be fairly certain that, in all the long and tangled history of the world, this phrase has never been written or uttered before. This is, however, a potential pitfall for the unwary in the planning process whereby one form-filling error can lead to the arrival of a life-changing invoice. In this article I look at the matter in more detail and consider how West Berkshire Council and its neighbours in Wiltshire and the Vale handle the issue.

• As a result of heavy usage, a number of the letters on my Mac keyboard have faded away. As I don’t touch type this is quite a problem. E, R, T, Y, U, I, O, H and N are invisible, ruling out a large chunk of the English language. I had been re-writing the letters with a black marker pen but this lasted about 30 minutes and spread a grey smear over all the other keys. I was horrified when I looked up the price of new keyboards: so yesterday bought some white stickers, wrote the letters and carefully stuck them on the keys. All went well until I realised I’d got Y, U, I and O in the wrong places. I prized the labels off and found that one had got wedged in the gap: if it had torn off the whole keyboard would have been knackered. That took two anxious minutes with a scalpel to sort out. Now, one day later, all the previous bright white labels have turned grey so that the letters are only visible in a certain light. I’ve also discovered that it’s now almost impossible to remove them. The G is now starting to face as well. Anyone get any ideas? I know what you’re going to say – “buy a new keyboard.” However, the make-do-and-mend mentality now has me firmly in its grip…

• The BBC reports that there were 82 CV-19 cases in West Berkshire in the week 23-29 November, down 50 on the week before. This equates to 52 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 127 (165 last week). 

• West Berkshire Council is launching a Covid Winter Grant Scheme worth £279,000 for food, energy and other essential items for residents in need due to the pandemic. Free school meal vouchers for holidays will also form part of the programme.

West Berkshire Council has been awarded £495,000 from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund, following the Council’s bid to further develop a lasting, safe environment for walking and cycling. The grant is in addition to the £124,000 awarded in the first phase of allocations in July that went towards temporary active travel measures in response to the pandemic.

• It was announced at the West Berkshire Council meeting on 3 December that WBC has to date received about £91m in funding from central government as a result of the pandemic.

• West Berkshire Council is making free parking available at its car parks on designated dates in December to support retailers in the run up to Christmas.

• West Berkshire Council says it is ‘working hard’ to ensure that residents in their care homes can stay connected with their relatives and friends during the coronavirus pandemic.

• West Berkshire Council’s Local Restrictions Support Grant will support businesses that pay business rates on their premises and which have been forced to close. More information here.

• The Additional Restrictions Grant is a discretionary grant that will be administered by West Berkshire Council to support businesses which have been affected by restrictions and which have not received other grant support or which require further assistance. More information here.

• West Berkshire Council says that its Family Safeguarding Model the number of children entering care has dropped by more than 40%.

• The West Berkshire Covid dashboard can be visited here

Click here for the latest Covid-19 News from West Berkshire Council.

• West Berkshire Council is providing a special online reading project to address learning deficits caused by the lockdown.

• West Berkshire Lottery has announced that all tickets purchased for its weekly lottery up until Saturday, 19 December will be entered into a national draw for the chance of winning one of five ‘Entertainment Bundles’ (an Amazon Echo Show 8, Echo Dot 3rd Gen and a Fire 7 Tablet).

• West Berkshire Council is to implement a support plan that will help residents and businesses to contain the spread of Covid-19, funded by the Government’s Covid Marshall Grant.

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils have their own web pages relating to the outbreak. Click here as follows for the high-level links for West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon.

• West Berkshire Council has set up a Community Support HubClick here to visit the website or call 01635 503 579 to speak to the the Building Communities Together team. The Hub has also set up two FAQ pages, for residents and for businesses. You can also click here to sign up to receive the Hub’s e-bulletins and click here to see the weekly updates. 

• You can click here to choose to receive all or any of West Berkshire Council’s e-newsletters.

Click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. As with the volunteers’ post above, if you are aware of any others, let us know.

• The animal of the week is this yellow sheep that was found trying to use the stairs, or perhaps the lift, in a hotel in Anglesey. What anyone in Wales would want with a sheep in a hotel I can’t imagine…

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, as well as those covered elsewhere, communications about floods, badgers, Hungerford’s Salisbury Road, irrational religious beliefs, defending the indefensible and the fur trade.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support including: Inkpen School PSA (thanks to various recent village fundraising events); Action through Enterprise (thanks tho all those who took part in the Christmas quiz last weekend); West Berkshire Foodbank (thanks to Trinity School); over 8os in West Berkshire (thanks to the NWN’s 2020 Christmas Parcel Fund); West Berkshire children (thanks to Swift Logistic’s toy appeal).

Hungerford & district

• Latest news from Hungerford Town Council, Kintbury Parish Council, Shalbourne Parish Council and Inkpen Parish Council

• The wrangling continues between the developers and West Berkshire Council’s planners about the proposed revision to the development at Salisbury Road. If approved, no social-rent homes being built, contrary to the terms of the original permission. You can see the details of the application, including the 35 or so letters of objection, by clicking here. You can also add to them if you wish.

• The December Penny Post Hungerford will be published on 8 December and will, as ever, include a round up of the work done by Hungerford Town Council. This body will meet at 7pm the day before and you can see the agenda here (which includes the Zoom link should you wish to attend).

• Hungerford currently has a vacancy for a Town Councillor – see here for more information. The posts will be filled by co-option (two were filled at the last Full Council meeting).

• A good chunk of Penny’s time (and even more of Stuart March’s) was spent making the virtual switch-on video. Zoom calls involving Penny, Stuart, Hungerford’s major Helen Simpson and the Clerk Claire Barnes became so common in the last couple of weeks that I began to think the other three had moved into our house. I know nothing at all about videos so stayed well out of it. The results of this work – which have been seen over 12,000 times on FB and Youtube – can be seen here. There’s also an article with several photos on pp 12-13 of this week’s NWN. Hats off to all four of them and to everyone who participated.  

• The most recent meeting of Kintbury Parish Council took place on 5 November and you can read the minutes here.  

• Click here for the December edition of the Inkpen and Coombe Bulletin. If you want to subscribe or contribute, contact gloriakeene@hotmail.com. This includes some thoughts from Ashley Jones, a local resident who’ll taking part in what the Bulletin correctly calls the ‘Herculean challenge’ of rowing across the Atlantic as part of a team of four. Two-hour sleep cycles, 5,000 calories of ‘remarkably nice’ dried food and 10 litres of water a day and waves of up to 30 feet were some of the headline figures. The trip is in aid of There Human Practice Foundation. You can find out more about the challenge, and donate, by clicking here. Just looking at the alarming video on the home page makes me feel slightly queasy…

Lambourn Valley

Latest news from Lambourn Parish CouncilEast Garston Parish CouncilWelford Parish Council and Great Shefford Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Lambourn Parish Council took place on 2 December and the minutes will be available from the Clerk (and eventually on the to-be-constructed website) in due course.  You can click here to read an excellent summary of the meeting from Lambourn.org. matters covered included Christmas trees on the High Street, five planning applications, an update on the community orchard, the poor state of repair of the Fluke Walwyn horse track, possible uses for CIL funds, discussions about the 2021-22 budget and precept and a discussion about the ‘littering and planning control issues’ at a site near the river.

• The following day, 3 December, an armed robbery took place in Lambourn. Details are vague at the time of writing but the matter will be updated by the Newbury Weekly News on this page.

• The most recent meeting of Great Shefford Parish Council took place on Thursday 5 November and the minutes can be seen here. As previously reported, the main item discussed was the application 20/02245/FUL for the creation of a farm shop at The Great Shefford pub, the details of which you can see here.

• The most recent meeting of East Garston Parish Council  took place on 4 November and the draft minutes can be seen here

• The December Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter will be published on Saturday 5 December. If there’s anything you’d like to see included, please email penny@pennypost.org.uk.

• The December East Garston News has been published and you can click here to read it.

• As mentioned previously, planning application has been made for a change of use from horse-training yard to office space at Mabberley’s in East Garston. You can read more about this, in particular the question of traffic and access,  in this separate post.

• This week’s NWN has, on p24, an article which covers both the 2018 illegal dredging incident in East Garston (which, as I mentioned last week, is still being investigated by the Environment Agency) and the more recent incident of the dumping of refuse in the then dry, but now flowing, River Lambourn in Lambourn itself which has, somewhat belatedly, been addressed by West Berkshire Council’s enforcement team. 

• The River Lambourn, certainly in our stretch in East Garston, is now strongly flowing again and several groups of ducks have appeared. (I was interested to notice this morning that there were two groups of six which suggests that they, like so many of us, thought that West Berkshire would be in tier one rather than tier two.) See this separate post for an analogy, involving an overflowing bath, of the current sewer problems in the upper valley which the rising water-table levels will make more severe. That said, there seem to be signs that a long-term solution to the problems of the valley’s sewer network could be a step closer. More to follow next week.

• This year’s Penny Post Christmas and New Year Quiz has as its prize a meal for two, a bottle of house wine, a room for the night and breakfast the following day at The Pheasant in Shefford Woodlands. Click here to enter.

Click here or here for the latest news from Lambourn Surgery

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on continue broadcasting during the CV crisis – click here for more

Newbury & district

Latest news from Newbury Town Council, Greenham Parish Council, Chieveley Parish Council and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available too place on 19 October and you can read the minutes here.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports that the collapse of the Arcadia Group is likely to lead to two further closures in the Parkway shopping centre with Topshop and Topman both about to close their doors for the last time. John Lewis has already done so.

• The same paper reports that there will be at least one new store opening in town, however, as approval has been granted for a new Lidl supermarket on the A4 at the site of the old Narrow Boat pub.

Click here to see a few of the things that Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston has been up to in November.

• The issue of the closure of the football ground refuses to go away. One recent letter of opposition refers to WBC’s decision to close the ground in June 2016 in anticipation of the (unfulfilled) hope that the surrounding London Road Industrial Estate would soon be re-developed as a “predetermined assumption which is premature and flawed,” and makes the point that “WBC should not be using local taxpayers money to either subsidise a property developer.” The author goes on to refer to the wide uses to which the ground was put for many years and adds that “only if a replacement facility of equal or better quality in a similar location is fully operational should the council have been allowed to destroy the current facility.”

All these are fair points which have been made numerous times by a wide range of campaigners. The decision to close the ground prematurely was wrong in so many ways at the time and seems no less wrong now. One imagines what expert external legal advice might have been sought before taking such a serious step. A recent Freedom of Information Act request has, however, revealed that West Berkshire, surprisingly, did not seek any external guidance on the matter. I bet they wished they had.

I cannot believe there is anyone on or in West Berkshire Council who doesn’t wish that the clock could be re-set to June 2018 so that this pointless, divisive, destructive and money-draining fiasco could have been avoided. As a letter in this week’s NWN points out, ‘sorry’ seems to be the hardest word. If you’re going to say sorry for something, you have to do it quickly: the longer you follow a wrong path the more you tend to convince yourself you’re actually on the right one.

• The consultation on the proposed new plans for Kennet Centre has now closed although information can still be seen here

• The Mayor of Newbury has set up an online raffle to help raise funds for her charity The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund. The raffle will run from 1 December to 20 December and the winners will be drawn on Monday 21 December.  Prizes include a day at the races for two at Newbury Racecourse, Waitrose & Partners vouchers, a meal at The Woodspeen, a £25 Hobbycraft voucher and a Christmas food and drinks hamper. Click here to enter the raffle.

• West Berkshire Council has tackled a ‘litter and fly-tipping hotspot‘ along a section of the A339 in Newbury.

• Newbury BID has launched its ‘shop local‘ campaign – see here for more.

• Applications are open for grants to support local environmental groups with projects that will reduce CO2 emissions and other actions that benefit the climate in Newbury. The closing date s 31 December 2020. More information can be found here.

• If you are involved with an organisation or charity that benefits the residents of Newbury, you can apply for grant funding for a special project or core costs. To apply you must register with The Good Exchange and complete the grant application process by 16 January 2021.  The Council’s criteria for grant funding can be found here

• The Royal Horticultural Society has awarded Newbury with a Certificate of Recognition for the town’s Britain in Bloom efforts in this difficult year.

•  See here for details of its tree-planting days on Saturday 5 and 12 December.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the minutes here. The main matter discussed was the Coombe Cottage planning application: several members of the public asked questions and a number of issues were raised by members with a representative of the applicant who was present at the meeting. Other matters discussed included the Curridge Wastelands Charity, fly tipping, dog waste, speeding, the Crabtree Lane footpath and Christmas lights.

• Stella and the team at the White Hart Inn in Hamstead Marshall wold like to stress that, ‘contrary to an error in this week’s Newbury Weekly News’, the pub is open as of 5pm on 3 December. You can click here to see details of what they have on offer in the run-up to Christmas. 

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and you can see it here. Items include a local quiz, the quest for a new Parish Clerk, the Village Hall’s finances and news of some planning applications. One of these was for the delightfully named Rickety Gate Farm: I looked in vain among the list of proposed works for the phrase ‘repair of rickety gate.’ If you’d like to subscribe to the Hornet (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net

• Click here for the latest NTC News from Newbury Council.

Compton & Downlands

Latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton Parish Council, Ashampstead Parish Council, Beedon Parish Council, Chaddleworth Parish Council, Brightwalton Parish Council, The Peasemore Village website, West Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Compton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the draft minutes here. Matters discussed include two planning applications (neither of which was objected to), the co-option of a new member (Jude Cunningham), the progress on the NDP (see para below) and the relocation and replacement of a street light.

• The Compton Neighbourhood Development Plan is now subject to a formal six-week consultation period starting on 9 November. The ‘regulation 14’ Consultation will run until Monday 21st December 2020. The Compton NDP Steering Group is inviting comments on the proposals in the plan. More information here.

• The ‘bumper end-of-year’ Chaddleworth Newsletter for December has recently been published and you can click here to read it. Items covered include updates from various village groups and societies, the tale of the Chaddleworth bear, the latest news (but no news really) about the future of The Ibex, two recipes and news from the Downland Practice. As usual, there will be no January edition so the next one will be in February 2021.

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council took place on 3 November and you can read the minutes here.  

• The most recent meeting of East Ilsley Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes here

• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Brightwalton Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Ashampstead Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Hampstead Norreys Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 October and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 October and you can read the minutes here

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thatcham and district

Latest news from Thatcham Town Council, Hermitage Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Brimpton Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

• This week’s NWN has, on p28, a report on the success of Thatcham’s new youth worker initiative which the council said had made ‘a fantastic start’ to its work in the town.

Councillors John Boyd (Town) & Councillor Lee Dillon (Town and District) will be in Thatcham Broadway between 10am and noon on Saturday5 December  to talk to to residents about any local issues of concern.

• The town’s Christmas lights will have a virtual switch on at 7pm on Friday 4 December – see the TC’s Facebook page.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here

See this separate post for information on the fight to save Piggy Woods from piecemeal acquisition and possible development. This appears to have achieved its immediate ambition of getting tree preservation orders (TPOs) in place: this means that the various new owners (the land has been chunked up for sales in parcels) will have to apply to have these TPOs set aside: no easy task.

• The NWN this week devotes the whole of p6 to the controversial plan for 75 homes at Coley Farm in Cold Ash. Although this was identified by WBC as a preferred housing site in 2015, not all the members agree: Councillor Garth Simpson is quoted as saying that this was ‘probably the worst site around Newbury’ to build 75 homes. The article refers to ‘significant gradients’ in the development, the likely increase in car usage and the flooding risk. 

• West Berkshire Council has completed flood-defence schemes in Thatcham that it claims will protect around 600 homes. The schemes, at Dunston Park and South East Thatcham are now operational and awaiting landscaping to complete the cosmetic aspect of the works.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 3 November and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 October and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here.

• Col Ash’s tree-planting day will take place on Sunday 13 December.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a sunrise and finishes with Gandhi.

Theale and district

Latest news from Theale Parish Council, Aldermaston Parish Council, Padworth Parish Council, Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, Englefield Parish Council and Burghfield Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council took place on 12 November and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included the council vacancy (which will be filled by election), progress on the planned station car park, reports from the strategy working party and the memorial working group, responses to West Berkshire Council consultations and various planning matters. 

• A reminder that if you want to get involved in Beenham’s physical advent calendars – where, each day, a different display or piece of artwork is revealed at different places throughout a town or village – get in touch with Pat Owen at patowen0@hotmail.com or call her on 07947 478 840.

Click here to see the most recent (November 2020) copy of the Padworth Newsletter. This includes notes on the most recent Parish Council meeting on 5 October.

• The most recent meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can see the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Burghfield Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 October 2020 and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Theale Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Englefield Parish Council took place on 8 October and you can read the draft minutes here

Marlborough & district

Latest news from Marlborough Town CouncilAldbourne Parish Council and Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 359 CV-19 cases in Wiltshire in the week 16-22 November, down 204 on the week before. This equates to 72 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 127 (165 last week). 

• Temporary changes to the road layout will have been put in place to widen pavements in part of the High Street.

• Delivery drivers and gifts are needed for Marlborough’s Christmas Day Lunch – Marlborough News has more.

• The same source reports that a legal bid has been launched to try to prevent a two-mile road tunnel being built for the A303 alongside Stonehenge.

And still with MN, St John’s is preparing to submit a planning application that will expand sports provision for the school’s 1,700+ students and ensure that local community groups have access to a wider range of facilities.

• The most recent meeting of Marlborough Town Council took place on 2 November 2020 and you can read the minutes here.

• Marlborough’s Christmas lights are on but without the usual switch-on event – read a report from the Town Council here.

Click here for two excellent lists of suppliers in and around Marlborough which are offering takeaways and also those offering deliveries or click-and-collect for a wide range of products. 

• You can click here to read the most recent (11 November) blog from Marlborough’s Mayor, Mark Cooper.

Click here for details of Marlborough’s neighbourhood development plan.

• We attended (virtually, of course) the quiz run by the local charity Action Through Enterprise. What a turn out with over 40 teams, more than would probably have been able to fit into most venues. I had hoped that various family Zoom quizzes during lockdown and my setting a quiz question of the week every Thursday (see food of post) would put give me a chance of doing quite well for our team. I was wrong. Well done to Sarah for organising it and for raising a decent sum of money for the charity’s very focussed work in north west Ghana. One of the questions is in the QQotW below. (This was one of the mere 40% that we got right.)

• The most recent meeting of Great Bedwyn Parish Council (these only take place on odd, not even, months) took place on 10 September and you can read the draft minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Aldbourne Parish Council took place on 4 November and you can read the minutes here

Click here for a list of current consultations being run by Wiltshire Council. 

Wantage & district

Latest news from Wantage Town Council, Grove Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 77 CV-19 cases in the Vale in the week 23-28 November, down 19 on the week before. This equates to 57 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 127 (165 last week). 

• The battle continues in the seemingly interminable struggle to re-open Wantage’s Community Hospital which was ‘temporarily’ closed 2016 as a result of an outbreak of legionnaire’s disease. The Oxford CCG maintains that there is no need for the facility in the town, a claim hotly disputed by almost every other local group. A meeting between the CCG and the Wantage Health Group is scheduled for 15 December. It was suggested to me recently by someone closely involved in the campaign that the closure has been a long-held aim of the local health bosses since the late 1990s and that one aspect of this was a neglect of maintenance which led to the above-mentioned outbreak. As with West Berkshire’s decision to shut the football ground in Newbury (see section above) the closure has led to the creation of campaigners who are clearly not going to get bored and drift away. This article on the Herald’s website has more on this.

• This week’s Herald has, on p2, an article about the delay in the announcement to the £160m plan to turn Oxford’s railway station into ‘a transport hub of national significance.’ Once signed off by he government it should enable a number of local rail improvements to be realised.

• See this separate post for the Wantage Chamber of Commerce’s concerns about the lack of parking spaces in the town.

• If you can find a parking space in Wantage, there will be free parking in all Vale Council car parks on Saturday 7, 14 and 21 December.

• The most recent meeting of Wantage Town Council was held on 12 October and you can read the minutes here

• The Wantage Community Fridge is one year old this month. Over that period no fewer than 53 volunteers have helped them save tonnes of good food from going to waste. More information here.

• Two new Covid Compliance Marshals are now out and about to promote and encourage businesses and residents across in South Oxfordshire and the Vale to comply with the COVID-19 public health measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Read more here.

• The Vale Council has launched its new corporate plan outlining how it will serve its communities over the next few years. The plan includes what the council’s priorities should be while supporting the district through COVID-19, the recovery, and beyond. Read more here.

• The Leaders of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have written a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to express their dismay that the national lockdown was announced without sufficient support for all businesses in place.

Click here for news from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald searches for some good news from her survey of the national and international news. After starting with a reference to the behaviour of Donald Trump – as new low in so many ways – things were only likely to get better. She duly found some good news, some rather closer home.

• The most recent (special) meeting of Grove Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 September and you can read the (currently draft) minutes here.

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted. The organisers are currently appealing for help to keep the service going – click here for details.

• You can click here to see the November 2020 issue of the Letcombe Register. Items covered include plans to improve the Letcombe Brook, a message from the Parish Council, gardening tips, news from village voluntary and community groups and the saint of the month

• Click here for information on the location of defibrillators in and around Wantage.

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 305 CV-19 cases in Swindon in the week 23-29 November, down 19 on the week before. This equates to 137 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 127 (165 last week). 

• Households in Swindon are being reminded about some important changes to waste and recycling collections over the festive period.

• Local authorities across the South West are joining together this Christmas to call for more people to consider becoming foster carers.

• Both of Swindon’s Conservative MPs have praised the government’s spending review for its commitment to tackle Covid next year together with funding for public services and economic recovery.

Rough sleepers in Swindon are to benefit from a new scheme intended to help them get better access to support services and encourage them to come off the streets.

• Shoppers will be able to park in Swindon’s town centre at a reduced rate in December as many retailers plan to extend their opening hours.

• Swindon Borough Council is to receive £731,500 from the Government to improve walking and cycling provision across the borough.

• Lockdown may have forced Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to close its doors, but people from across the country will still be able to view the town’s renowned Modern British Art collection thanks to a new online exhibition.

• Residents are being asked asked to contribute to the Council’s plans to reduce the borough’s carbon footprint. This follows the recent announcement of an ambitious plan to make Swindon Borough Council carbon neutral within 10 years which has been presented to the town’s councillors.

• Grants are available for businesses in Swindon impacted by national Covid-19 restrictions.

• Wiltshire Police claims that Covid patrols increase public engagement. This post reports that they are now being seen on Swindon’s streets.

Click here for information from Swindon Council about how Coronavirus is affecting its services as well as other useful information. 

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song, the sketch and the quiz

• So, here we are at the Song of the Week. I’d never heard of this Indian prodigy (no other word seems to do), the 24-year-old Mohini Dey until I had an email from a friend with suggestion that I take a listen. On this song – which is sort of Indian gospel jazz/funk, if that makes sense – she plays some of the most stunning bass guitar I’ve heard. Check it out for yourself – Thee Thee & Marlagale. Pretty crazy song title, too.

• That dealt with,  it’s time for the Comedy Sketch of the Week.  In this dank month at the end of this awful year, escape for a minute or so to the strange visions of summertime England conjured up by Fry and Laurie’s Marvellous England Commentators.

• And we end as ever with the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question came from the Zoom Christmas quiz organised last weekend by Action Through Enterprise and was as follows: Which was the first act at the Wembley Live Aid in 1985? Last week’s question was: As of 26 November, which is the only part of mainland England that will be in the lowest Covid tier from next month? The answer is Cornwall. Lucky them – or perhaps not. Time will tell.

Brian Quinn

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If you would prefer to contact me directly and privately about anything which was, or you think should have been, in this post, please email brian@pennypost.org.uk.


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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale